29 Aug

We Had One, One Night In Rio

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
We had two…two glasses of champagne. Well, we do have champagne tastes but, unfortunately, a beer budget….so we substituted with beer on the beaches of Rio. And it was actually four nights…

To say I was anxious as the bus made its way to Rio de Janeiro would be an understatement. Every guidebook and website I had read talked about how dangerous it was. Stories of pickpocketing and muggings…even in the light of day. What was I expecting? A lawless state where armed gunmen stood on every corner just waiting for tourists to exit their hotels? It turned out to be fine and, with the usual precautions, we didn’t feel uncomfortable even once.

Christ The Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, BrasilRio is absolutely stunning. The combination of the water crashing on long, crescent shaped beaches with the city buildings studded amongst green, green hills is what puts it amongst our list of most beautiful cities. I love cities that are on the water. I don’t find the juxtaposition of the beaches with the cityscape jarring, in fact I like the way the city is a little more relaxed because of it and the beaches, because they are so accessible, always have something going on.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, BrasilBoth Copacabana and Ipanema beaches lived up to their reputation. Long expanses of fluffy sand punctuated by futbol scrums, volleyball courts and games of futevolie (volleyball played without the use of hands!). Although the beaches did not fill up (it is winter here after all) there was still plenty to see, and by that I mean that yes, the beachwear here does not leave a lot to the imagination and body type is no excuse not to don that bikini! I think that my favorite part, though, was the beer stalls that regularly dot the pedestrian walkway alongside the beach. Cheap, ice-cold beer right next to the beach! Canada needs to seriously work on its liquor laws!

From the Christ the Redeemer and SugarLoaf mountain lookouts, the city looked like a LegoLand version of itself. The beaches, the high-rises, the mountains, the islands in the distance all appearing as if in some diorama in an architects office somewhere.

Favelo, Rio de Janeiro, BrasilWe did not go on a favela tour. The slum areas of Rio are very visible as they climb the hillsides amongst the city. Tours of favelas are common and popular but was just not something we wanted to do. It’s not about not wanting to face up to the poverty that exists in these countries we are visiting, but more about not wanting to intrude on the lives of those who are living it. How would I feel if tour buses of people came through my neighborhood, looking in my windows, taking pictures and wondering aloud ‘how they live like that’? I understand that the tours are organized, that the money paid goes toward change, and that they are a reality but it just wasn’t something I wanted to be part of.

Paratay, BrasilWe left Rio to finish out our time in South America at a small beach town between Rio and Sao Paulo. Paraty is exactly what we were looking for. A super chill hostel (our room looks out onto the beach!), beer shacks on the beach and warm water to swim in. Here we are doing nothing…seriously, nothing. We’ve managed to pull ourselves back and forth to town to eat a couple of times but mostly we’re just chilling, relaxing….chillaxing…ahhhh……

25 Aug

The Amazing Power Of Nature

Rainy Day Bus Ride We arrived in Iguazu Falls in the middle of a rainstorm, not knowing that the worst of it was yet to come. That night I saw biggest thunderstorm I have ever seen. The storm cells circled the town for hours on end, flashing lightning, crashing thunder loud enough to shake the house, and dropping rain harder than I thought possible. I’m from the West Coast of Canada so I’m used to rain, but this was like the skies just opened up and poured out what they had. I was mesmerized and, like a little girl, kept running to the window to have a look.

The next day dawned calm, although overcast. We made our way to the falls easily on the local bus and set about a plan to view them from all possible angles.

Iguazu Falls, Argentinean Side We started with the Upper Walkway which would give us a view of the falls from above. The first view of the falls was stunning but, literally, every footstep revealed even more falls and an even better view. The water level was high resulting in even better waterfall viewing than expected, and was a reddish brown color due to the storm runoff picking up the richly colored soil as it made it’s way to the falls.

The catwalk walkway wound it’s way over several of the falls allowing views down to the tumble of water below. From here I could also see the lower walkways and how close they got  to the falls from the bottom – that looked like even more fun!

Gillian Under The Falls The Lower Walkway was way more fun! The largest waterfall had a walkway almost to the base – I pulled my raincoat tightly to me, tugged on the hood strings and made my out. The wind created from force of the water whipped around me. The sound was deafening and the spray got heavier and heavier as I got closer to the base. Once there I stared straight up at it, amazed at how much power was there. I got soaked but had a huge smile on my face!

The Devils Throat is the main attraction at the falls. A catwalk more than a kilometer long reaches out over the river to get to the lip of this tight horseshoe shaped behemoth. It is stunning and awe-inspiring. We couldn’t even see to the other side of the horseshoe as the spray was so thick. Needless to say, there are no close up pictures and yes, we got soaked. But happy again.

There is a border that runs directly down the middle of the Iguazu River and the falls  themselves. On one side Argentina, and on the other, Brazil. It was an easy day trip to get to the Brazilian side.

Iguazu Falls, Brazilian Side-3 The difference between the Argentinean side and the Brazilian side were described to us by some fellow Canadians as being like Niagara Falls…Canada owns the falls, but the States has a better view. I don’t know if I  would say Brazil’s view is better, but it certainly is more panoramic. From here we were able to see the full majesty of the falls on the other side.

The White Smurfs In Front Of The Falls They too have a catwalk and it pushed out across a fast moving section of the river, in front of a wall of water cascading from above and ending at the edge of the fall as it made its final descent. The wind and spray were like being in the middle of a storm and, as I reached the end of the catwalk I gasped at the view of the water plunging over the edge. So much water, moving so quickly right under my feet…truly, a fine display of natures power.

It’s impossible to decide whether the Argentinean or Brazilian side of the falls are better. The Argentinean side will forever be remembered for the first amazing views, but it was the Brazilian side that literally took my breath away.